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From Little Things Big Things Grow – Gardening Ideas For Small Spaces

By Nicola Saltman, Snr Environment Officer, Waverley Council on May 28, 2014 in Other


Gardens – the word alone conjures images of lush lawns, fragrant frangipani trees and pebbled paths fringed with native flowers (at least it does for me). Unfortunately these ideals may not be the most realistic for a balcony or small courtyard (my reality), but you can still create pockets of green paradise whether you live in a high-rise or lay claim to a 1-metre by 2-metre paved porch.

You certainly wouldn’t be alone in facing these gardening challenges. Large sprawling yards are few and far between in the Waverley Local Government Area, with semis, townhouses and unit blocks representing over 70% of residential buildings. Never fear, growing a green patch in a tiny plot need not be difficult, and it can even help to cultivate a calmer mind.

Enter no-dig gardens and old-school pot plants. For anyone who has been following ‘The Block’ on Channel 9 (yes, I am first to admit my love of reality ‘reno’ shows), vertical gardens were all the go in each of the narrow apartment terraces, and I have to say, they were so darned pretty!

Check out these DIY ideas to bring more nature into your outdoor urban nooks and even allow you to grow your own food.

Vertical Gardens
All the rage these days, vertical gardens make so much sense in postage stamp sized spaces. With rows upon rows of foliage potential, they are perfect for growing herbs, strawberries and small plants in the sun and away from poor soil and curious creatures. They are also great for hiding ugly walls. Landscaping or gardening pros can create your wall of green, or you can build your own with a recycled wooden palette or salvaged gutters and some basic tools. There’s a plethora of ‘how-to’ guides online.

Pocket Planters
You can buy hanging, breathable, recycled planter bags that keep your wall dry while wicking moisture to the roots of your plants. They work with virtually any type of wall surface. You can also go totally DIY with a canvas shoe organiser for potting your herbs. Simply hang them off the wall with a backing of wood strips to keep your wall dry – just make sure you give them lots of love and water frequently.

One-Pot Solution
Despite what you may think, you don’t need metres of compost garden beds to grow vegetables. Complementary groups of plants – like tomatoes, basil, chillies and chives – can grow well together in a single pot. Get yourself an old wine barrel or galvanised water trough, drill some drainage holes, fill it with soil and plant away. High quality soil, clever planting choices and regular watering are key.

Self-Watering Pots
If you’re the ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ type of gardener, self-watering plant pots will get your thumbs up. Available from local gardening and hardware stores, all you need to do is add water to the bottom reservoir every now and then. Your plants will suck up the water as needed through their roots.

Portable Planters
Wooden wine crates can be turned into planter boxes. Hanging pots or baskets sourced from garden shops can jazz up a plain verandah, leaving space for you to sit back and enjoy the serenity. A big plus with pots and planters is that they are portable so you can rearrange them to suit your balcony design or mood of the day, or easily move them to your new home when relocating.

Choose Your Plants

Select plants that suit the orientation of your space and sun availability. East and west facing spaces may need shade tolerant plants. Tough, heat tolerant plants will do well if your plot faces west. You are on to a winner with most north or north-east facing gardens. Herbs are a great way to begin. Carrots, garlic and tomatoes can grow happily in pots. Beans and passionfruit will grow well along a trellis.

Want To Learn More?
Book in for Waverley Council’s free hands-on ‘Gardening in Small Spaces’ workshop on Saturday, May 31, 9.30am-12.30pm at the Waverley Community Garden. And while you’re at it, book in for the ‘Garden to Table: Growing Bush Tucker Plants’ workshop on Saturday, May 17, 9.20am to 12.30pm at Waverley Council Chambers on Bondi Road. To book, call 9369 8045 or email